The international community has been virtually unanimous in its condemnation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal eleven month old crackdown on the uprising by dissidents and reformers in his country. The United States, the United Nations, the Arab League, the Vatican and many others have roundly criticized his violent response to cries for freedom and democracy in Syria and have called it inhuman and unacceptable, among other things. There have been attempts to implement sanctions and to take other non-military measures to force him to stop terrorizing, torturing and murdering Syrians and to negotiate and put in place much needed reforms in Syria. There have even been calls for him to abdicate. All of this has been to no avail and has done nothing to stop the carnage. The latest report for example has Syrian soldiers using human shields on tanks as they shell civilian populations, this to prevent the Free Syrian Army and other rebels from attacking them.
No one really knows at this point whether or not Assad and his regime will survive. It could, but the possibility that it won’t is very high. The possibility is also very high that Syria will be taken over by Islamists who will turn the country into an Islamic state governed by Islamic law, Sharia, if he falls. Islamic terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are already operating in Syria and trying to hijack and gain control of the uprising. They are getting stronger and more confident every day and could very well do so, just as they have in the uprisings in Egypt and Libya.
The fate of Syria’s religious minorities, particularly its 2.5 million strong Christian community (which is one tenth of the population) would be sealed if Islamists took power. The Islamists would subjugate them, drive them out or kill them…that is what Islamists have done to religious minorities in lands they controlled throughout history and that is what they would do in Syria. For all his brutality, Assad kept the Islamists more or less under wraps in Syria and allowed religious minorities to live in relative peace and security, just as President Mubarak did in Egypt and President Gaddafi did in Libya. There might or might not be civil war in Syria if Assad fell but if Islamists took over there would definitely be religious and ethnic cleansing on a massive scale.
How to prevent Islamists from hijacking the uprising in Syria, how to keep them from taking over should Assad and his regime fall and how to prevent massive religious and ethnic cleansing once they did are all questions that should be asked by non-Islamists who want to get rid of him. This is especially important for the United States, Israel and other Western democracies.
Humanitarian considerations notwithstanding, Syria in the hands of Islamists would be an even graver security threat than Syria in the hands of Assad and that is something they cannot lose sight of.